Chinese company denies links to suspected North Korean drones that crashed in South
Beijing-based firm's drones have caused buzz for their striking similarities to mystery UAVs
Two drones that crashed recently in South Korea were not sold by a Chinese retailer, whose products bear a striking resemblance to the crashed drones, according to a company spokesperson.
“We have nothing to do with this,” a spokeswoman for China TranComm Technologies, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter, said. “We have never publicly sold these drones.”
The technology blog North Korea Tech first reported that drones that crashed in South Korea over the last months were similar to those sold by the Beijing-based provider of communications equipment.
The China TranComm spokeswoman declined to say who manufactured the drones it offered for sale.
On March 24, a drone crashed in the border city of Paju, in South Korea’s Gyeonggi province. A week later, another crashed on the island of Baengnyeong, also near the border.
South Korea’s Ministry of Defence revealed earlier this month that another drone had been found in Samcheok, Gangwon province, in October last year. It did not say why the initial drone finding was only reported months later.
The ministry said it believed the drones to be of North Korean origin, a claim Pyongyang has neither clearly denied or confirmed.
An analysis of photos taken by one of the drones showed that it had flown over the South Korean capital Seoul and taken photos of the Blue House, the presidential residence, as well as military facilities.
One of the drones closely resembles those advertised by China TranComm Technologies on its website. Twelve drone types offered for sale by the company are listed on the site.
Its catalogue includes photos of men in military uniforms launching the drones along with aerial surveillance photos purportedly taken by the drones.
The North Korea Tech blog concluded that the drone is either the company’s Sky-09H-type or a “North Korean variant based on the same design”.
Slight differences in size and weight led the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo to conclude last week that the drones are “knock-offs of Chinese products”.
The drone can reach an altitude of 4,000 metres and fly for three hours, according to the company catalogue. It can carry photo or video-taking equipment, it said.
The Chinese drones can serve military purposes, according to the catalogue. They can feature optional radar jamming equipment and can carry “deadly, explosive or burning” devices. The company has a military sales department.
North Korea successfully simulated a drone attack on a South Korean target in March in the presence of leader Kim Jong-un, the reclusive regime’s KCNA news agency said at the time.
The regime obtained US target drones dating back to the 1970s from Syria, an unidentified military source told the South Korean Yonhap news agency last year.
South Korea in March said it would buy four Global Hawk drones from US manufacturer Northrop Grumman to improve its surveillance of the North.